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Since lockdown, there has been a surge of at-home growers and people who influence our lives outdoors. I feel we came to appreciate the value of our outdoors during this time, and this has now progressed to generations of people who want and need better lives.
Mental health struggles take over our lives sometimes, and to have something to cling on to during those darker days certainly helps.
One of the ways I find joy, is the variety in what I grow. No day is every boring, there’s always something new; even in colder weathers we can find solace in our outdoor space, no matter how small the task. If you’re like me, then you’re already thinking about what to grow next year based on your current year.
Every year is different but every year, I find new plants to add to my must-haves next year.
I don’t keep a written list of the plants I enjoy, I either save seed or go into my emails and search for seed orders I’ve had. I find that’s a great way of setting the space you need next year for what you enjoy most.
I have been growing in allotments for 7 years now. Every single growing year has been different and I’m not sure if that’s due to climate change (probably) or our ‘typical British weather’. Our ‘typical’ weather is formed from the fact we are tiny island in the middle of a number of different air masses. Our lovely little country is under five main air masses and this makes our weather so unpredictable.
If you are looking into something different to grow, look at Japanese veg. We have similar climates, light and humidity, and fresh wasabi isn’t as far out as you think.
I feel like there has never been a better time to be a gardener. You can gain so much from those who love it too and I have gained so much knowledge and inspiration from different types of social media and media generally.
I like to catalogue plants and colours through photos and in my mind. I often find that I send myself texts as reminders and lists. It’s how I found myself writing this.
As I walked round my plots today, I smiled. I smiled with the variety, colours, textures and smells of what I’ve grown, but also the wildlife flittering happily around me. My own little ecosystem. I can be here for 8 hours at a time and not get bitten as everything is too busy around me to care about the human in it. I love looking at the different types of wasps, bees, butterflies, wasps, spiders, and much more.
So let’s talk about the variety of what we grow. I have found over the years, that the more I diverse, the more I bring in terms of wildlife, pollination, and successful results. If one year you have an interest in a certain plant, then let go to your indulgence. Basque in that radiant feeling and just go for it. You’re definitely going to find your favourite cultivars/varieties etc. and you have taken an interest in something. Go with the flow and if you order 20 different cultivars of Calendula officinalis one year (guilty) then who cares. Grow what you love.
Learn to love and not disturb the ecosystem that you have grown. Even aphids have uses and are food for a variety of wildlife. Aphids are actually really interesting – no male has been found (GRL PWR ✌) however it’s really creepy that the THOUSANDS of babies they produce, are born already pregnant, ready to pop out more. Gross.
I feel as an English person that I have been made to fear enjoyment and happiness. If you relate to this, go and order those seeds you were thinking of. I know I am being the little devil on your shoulder right now, but I don’t regret seed purchases, even if the end result wasn’t as I had imagined. If you have the passion to grow then just go for it.
I have an interesting relationship with what I grow these days, compared to five years ago. Due to my tumour removal, I have limited smell and taste. I have been through therapy to reconnect my memories with smells and probably have about 10-20% of it back. Some days I have none.
I can’t smell floral scents very well, such as Sweet Peas, so I have much more choice visually as I am not bothered about scent on this occasion. I find it quite liberating to have my options actually widen!
I can smell strong smells such as alliums and herbs, so placing them in my growing space is vital for my mental health. It’s also not just about the taste – it’s the texture, the smell as you brush past them, and how they look visually. Herbs can be used in so many ways and there’s so many ways to store and use them. Researching into what you grow ensures you get the maximum benefit in terms of usage, but also helps you understand the plant and their growing conditions better. This is how I connect with nature – by trying to understand it more. The plus side is you can also grow herbs, such as Monarda didyma, that you can’t get in the supermarkets.
Every day is new in Horticulture. It never gets boring. So much so, it’s now my job, my hobby, and my life. If you see something you like the look of when you’re out and about and want to try growing it, my best advice is to research first and who knows, you could probably be the next plant collector of that species. Spice things up a little and try something new. Who knows? You might even like it.